Washington State Representative aims to make all legislators subject to public records requests in 2018

Submitted by YanqiXu on Wed, 12/13/2017 - 3:47pm

Rep. Paul Graves (R) of Fall City, in his second year as a state legislator, is proposing an end to a form of special treatment for state legislators. In advance of the 2018 legislative session, he is introducing a bill to amend the state’s 40-year-old Public Records Act by removing a 1995 exemption for state legislators.

As the law stands now, all state legislators, as well as the governor and lieutenant governor, can refuse to disclose information requested by the public regarding their schedules, e-mails, and other communications. City and county officials and other public entities are required, by Chapter 42.56 of state law (RCW), to provide anyone who requests publicly available information with that information, within a reasonable timeframe.

There are exceptions to this rule, such as information related to criminal investigations or data that could violate a person’s privacy, but in general, if the public asks for it, the city and county must provide it.

Section 42.56.030 states, in part, “The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may maintain control over the instruments that they have created…”

However, in 1995, the State Legislature voted to amend the definitions in the code, to exempt all state legislators from the rule.

Graves, speaking at the offices of the Snoqualmie Valley Record earlier this month, admitted that he hadn’t known about the exemption until he began orientation training for new legislators. Read more...